Some Optimism for the New Year (part 2)- Sponsored Article from Person of the Planet

This is the concluding part of a Christian Science article on new developments that will make the world a better place. We have previously presented the first four of those developments, and here are five more, all of which will bring good for the environment, to briefly again quote the beginning of the article, the improvements in this list will

“... help make the world a safer, saner, and more prosperous place for the majority of us. Fueled by advances in electronics, software, and materials science as well as by the imaginativeness of researchers and inventors, a number of new technologies promise to help curb global warming and biodiversity loss, ease commutes, and stretch the planet's natural resources to feed and house the nearly 10 billion people who are expected to be sharing it by 2050. . .from rooftop fans that pull carbon dioxide from the air to 3-D printed homes to radical concepts in transportation...

5. Slicker Cities

In October, Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet, the company that owns Google, announced that it will commit $50 million to redesigning 12 acres of waterfront in Toronto as a “smart city.” Rechristened as Quayside, the neighborhood will be carpeted with sensors; road design will prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and self-driving cars; and construction will emphasize prefabricated structures built with eco-friendly timber and plastic. If all goes well, the company will expand the project to 800 acres.

Billionaire Bill Gates is getting involved in the city-of-tomorrow movement, too. The former head of Microsoft plans to invest $80 million in a smart city on 25,000 acres on the western edge of Phoenix. Called Belmont, the community will include 80,000 homes.

“Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs,” says Belmont Partners, a real estate investment group that is developing the land.

Another futuristic city that will soon be getting more visibility, when the Olympics open in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February, is the Songdo International Business District. The 1,500-acre site, built on land reclaimed from the Yellow Sea 45 miles southwest of Seoul, features energy-efficient buildings, electric vehicle charging stations, and pneumatic waste-disposal systems.

6. Printing Homes

3-D printing has been used to create everything from jet airliner components to custom-fit shoes. Many experts say the process of turning digital files into three-dimensional objects could ultimately usher in a new industrial revolution. 

One of the latest manifestations of 3-D wizardry: building houses. It’s an application that could transform construction practices that have remained unchanged for centuries. 

Using a swiveling robotic arm that extrudes concrete, a San Francisco company, Apis Cor, 3-D printed the concrete walls for a 400-square-foot house in Russia in less than 24 hours in early 2017. And researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge have built a robotic arm and a vehicle that dispenses concrete for a 50-foot-diameter, 12-foot-high dome in less than 14 hours.

The technology could greatly speed up the construction of homes and reduce the waste. Construction refuse accounts for half of all solid waste in the United States. 

7. Purer Water

If you have a water filter in your refrigerator or on your kitchen faucet, you know it comes with one major drawback: The filter often has to be replaced.

Researchers at Princeton University in New Jersey have developed a way to clean water that may get around this problem: Infuse it with gas. It works by injecting carbon dioxide into a stream of water. When CO2 is dissolved in water, it creates ions that generate a small electric field. Because most contaminants have a surface charge, the electric field can split the stream into two channels, one carrying the contaminants and one containing clean water.

The researchers say that their method is 1,000 times as efficient as conventional filtration systems. They believe it could be useful in providing more sources of potable water in the developing world because of its low cost and low maintenance requirements. The technology could also find use in filtering water at desalination plants and water treatment facilities.

8. Wonder Wafer

Graphene has been heralded as the next wonder material. A form of carbon that consists of a single layer of atoms, it is stronger than steel, harder than diamond, lighter than paper, and more conductive than copper. 

It is currently being used in everything from electronics to high-tech tennis rackets. It may one day lead to smartphones as thin as paper that can be folded up and put in your pocket.

A team of physicists at the University of Sussex in England has for the first time combined silver nanowires with graphene to create a bendable, shatterproof touch screen. Because of graphene’s high conductivity, the screens could be more responsive and use far less power. They may be crucial to creating a new generation of credit-card-size phones.

9. Curbing Global Warming with Fans [last, but not least!]

Climate change is caused mostly by human activity emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Part of the solution may lie in extracting the harmful pollutants from the air – and then recycling them in useful ways.

That, at least, is what the Swiss company Climeworks is banking on. On the roof of a recycling center outside Zurich, Switzerland, 18 fans suck in the surrounding air. Chemically coated filters absorb the carbon dioxide. When they are saturated, the filters are heated to produce pure CO2, which is pumped into a nearby greenhouse where it helps vegetables grow bigger. Climeworks estimates that its fans are about 1,000 times as efficient as photosynthesis, which draws carbon out of the atmosphere and turns it into plant material.

Climeworks was the first to commercially capture CO2 from ambient air, but it is just one of many companies around the world pursuing carbon capture as a way of mitigating climate change. Carbon Engineering, backed by Bill Gates, is testing air capture at a facility in British Columbia. New York-based Global Thermostat has two pilot plants drawing CO2 from the air and power-plant flues.”

Please contact POP if you know about some more good developments in the works that will help our planet heal and thrive.

Faith is a Verb... Musings by Pastor Tony January 5, 2017

Cautiously we slide into the New Year, first dipping a toe into the cold waters of winter, testing to see how 2018 might affect us. In turning away from 2017 we leave behind memories, yet we take with us legacies of the year just past. In 2017, we finished the railing project along the outside wall of the sanctuary, providing more stability for those who walk that long walk each Sunday, we renovated the kitchen to a more modern look, and we replaced the stage curtains. In 2017, two small groups continued the work of the New Beginnings process started in 2016, creating the Person of the Planet and inaugurating a monthly speaker series on the nexus of justice and environmentalism.  As well, three long-term Council members, Ruth Robinson, Elena Caruthers, and Dorothy Streutker stepped off Council at the end of the year.

2018 brings three new Council members, Carol Lloyd, Linda Young, and Sara Laferte, and we are looking toward a Council retreat soon to get ready for this year. We have set a plan to redo our landscaping, with the generous donation from Jill Bryans’ Estate, as soon as the rains stop, and we are discerning the timing of redoing the patio, stairs, and deck outside the Social Hall. Meanwhile, the Person of the Planet team, working with the Board of Mission and Social Justice, are writing a Covenant statement to be part of the application to the United Church of Christ asking that ACC is designated a Creation Justice Church. The Covenant will also be used as a liturgical element periodically in worship as we welcome new members and celebrate who we are as a congregation. I have also asked the Pastor Parish Relations Team (Elena Caruthers, Barry Cammer, and Susan Yourd) to work with me, Council, and the congregation to evaluate all of our ministries at Arlington Community Church and how each of us connects to them, which I hope will lead to a frank discussion about my job description and duties.

Well then, that is a lot of stuff already in the works for 2018. Perhaps we are not just testing the waters of 2018, but moving from a shallow end to deeper waters. The waters we swim in surround us and hold us afloat. They are the waters of baptism, the water that makes up most of our body mass, and the waters that make up the bulk of the earth’s surface. The waters we swim in are the blessing waters of God, and they are part of the body of God. As we glide from 2017 to 2018, we see that we do not leave behind anything, because the pool we swim in is continuous from year to year. Our work is still in God, and our work is an extension of what we did last year. Even so, you can see that what lies ahead are some big tasks, and we can always use your prayers, your gifts, and your service to accomplish them.

On this the 12th day of Christmas, I wish you a blessed New Year, filled with the Epiphany Light of Christ.   

Peace, 

Pastor Tony

Some Optimism for the New year (part 1)

(from a Christian Science Monitor’s Dec. 30 article, "18 Leaps To Watch For...")

Sponsored Article from Person of the Planet- Shirley Lutzky

“The coming year will probably bring many surprises, but we can be confident in making at least one prediction: Technology will advance. And despite headlines warning of malevolent artificial intelligences, unscrupulous hackers, and greedy tech billionaires, many of these improvements will actually help make the world a safer, saner, and more prosperous place for the majority of us. Fueled by advances in electronics, software, and materials science as well as by the imaginative researchers and inventors, a number of new technologies promise to help curb global warming and biodiversity loss, ease commutes, and stretch the planet's natural resources to feed and house the nearly 10 billion people who are expected to be sharing it by 2050. . .from rooftop fans that pull carbon dioxide from the air to 3-D printed homes to radical concepts in transportation...

[Here are four that will contribute to the thriving of the planet. Part II will conclude with five more, in the next POP issue ]:          

1. Designer Solar

If you want solar panels, you don’t necessarily need to make your home look as if it’s covered with cereal boxes. Many companies are developing technology that lets homeowners integrate photovoltaic cells right into their houses’ existing architecture. Tesla, the electric car innovator, makes solar tiles that look like ordinary roof shingles. The company has installed them on about a dozen homes so far, including that of the company’s founder, Elon Musk, and orders for more are already sold out well into 2018. And...A team of Australian researchers has developed solar-powered paint. It works by soaking up water vapor from the air and then using the energy from sunlight to split the water into oxygen and hydrogen gas. The collected hydrogen is used in fuel cells.

2. Looks Do Matter

Facial-recognition systems have been used for everything from stadium security to unlocking a phone. But humans, it turns out, aren’t the only ones with machine-readable mugs: US researchers have developed a system that can reliably distinguish the faces of red-bellied lemurs - the furry primates with eyes like headlights that are among the world’s most endangered mammals.

The system, called LemurFaceID, could enhance wildlife conservation efforts by allowing biologists to identify and track the animals, found only in the wilds of Madagascar, without having to sedate and tag them. The technology works by identifying the fur on the lemur’s face, and its inventors suspect it could be used to monitor other species with distinct facial fur patterns, such as red pandas, raccoons, and sloths.

Already, scientists have used facial recognition with fish. In 2016, the Nature Conservancy’s FishFace project received a $750,000 prize from Google to develop a smartphone app that could be used on fishing boats worldwide. The technology could offer a low-cost way to manage fisheries, allowing more precise monitoring of stocks and better tracking of declining species.

3. Digital Farming

Quick: Which country is the second-largest food exporter in the world behind the United States? Surprisingly, it’s the Netherlands.

The country has become a global produce rack even though it is 1/270th the size of the US and lies at the same latitude as Newfoundland. It has achieved this by being in the forefront of the “precision farming” revolution.

Around the world, farmers are increasingly tapping new technologies to increase yields. Drones and satellites provide infrared and thermal imagery that measure the photosynthesis rates of crops. Sensors embedded in fields relay moisture levels and allow farmers to remotely control their irrigation pumps from their smartphones. Even the farmer’s trusty water bucket has gone high-tech: The WatchDog wireless rainfall collector measures temperature and rainfall down to a hundredth of an inch - turning farmers into instant meteorologists.

All of this data can be aggregated to help growers divine when and where to plant seeds, spread fertilizer and lime, and spritz fields with pesticides. The monitoring reduces both labor costs and environmental waste.

4. A Soft Pedal

Electric bicycles have been around since the 1890s, but they have long had a reputation of being ungainly, expensive, and heavy. Now advanced sensors and control systems are reviving the e-bike’s image - and its practicality as a form of urban transport in an era of irrepressible traffic congestion. 

Superpedestrian, an e-bikemaker in Cambridge, Mass., has created the Copenhagen Wheel, which looks like a rear bicycle wheel with an oversized red disc as the hub. It uses data from sensors to estimate the torque, cadence, and position of the pedals to emulate the feel of riding a normal bike, only with far less effort, since the battery is doing most of the work.

“E-bikes will really get going when they start to feel like regular bikes, but the riders become superhuman,” says Assaf Biderman, Superpedestrian’s chief executive officer. “That’s when we know we’ve nailed it.”

The $1,500 wheel can be purchased as a replacement rear wheel for a standard bicycle. The company also sells bikes with the wheel built in.

Other e-vehicles are blurring the line between bike and car. The egg-shaped ELF, produced by the Durham, N.C., company Organic Transit, sports three wheels and an enclosed cab with solar panels on the roof. Retailing for about $9,000, it is powered by a combination of pedals and a solar-powered rechargeable battery. Two other bike/cars are plying roads in Germany - the Twike, a fully enclosed electric vehicle, and the four-wheeled Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid, which looks like a cross between a baby buggy and an all-terrain vehicle. It can be propelled by pedal power, batteries, or both at once.

The next article, Part II, will present 5 more promising new developments that give reason for some optimism.

Looking for Good News in the Environment: January 2018 From Person of the Planet by Ruth Robinson

A U.S. subnational delegation committed to keeping America’s Paris Climate Goals. 


In June this year, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the country would be pulling out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. However, a rival coalition of U.S. governors, mayors, business and religious leaders paid for, and opened, an unofficial pavilion dubbed “America’s Pledge: We Are Still In.” This delegation, representing non-federal actors in 15 U.S. states, 455 cities, 1,747 businesses and 325 universities, proclaimed its commitment to the Paris Agreement on behalf of the American people. Governor Jerry Brown of California and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg led the delegation.

Pastor Tony's Sermon Christmas Eve, 2017

Mary was a shame.

She was a shame to her family.

She was a shame to her fiancé.

She was a shame to her village—or she would have been if they had known,

if she had shown

if she had grown

and given birth to her shame.

 

Mary was young and pregnant and also unwed.

If she didn’t know how that happened, everyone else did.

“Of course, a girl like her would end up like that. What did you expect?”

the villagers would say.

“Mary, tsk, tsk, tsk, what a shame!”

“She should have known better!”

“Where are her parents, anyway?”

 

Then someone decided how she should shun shame:

to keep pure and clean her family name

they would play an age-old game.

Before she began to show very much,

while her loose clothing still hid her baby-bump

and before the shame within her could grow

and show

just what kind of wild woman she really was—

they declared that she must go

away,

to the hills,

to her distant cousin Elizabeth’s distant house.

Elizabeth was pregnant, too, and the public play

could be

that young Mary

went to help her older cousin give birth.

Perhaps they might deliver on the same day!

“Oh, look. Twins!!!” “A blessing!” the gossips would say.

“A definite improvement in Elizabeth’s social worth.”

And Mary could return

unburdened by unwed shame

and, thus, she could shamelessly wed Joseph and take his name.

 

It was a pre-arranged marriage, into King David’s line,

a path that was paved by paternal practices of the time.

Yet their masculine determinations were denounced and undone by the Divine.

While Men decreed, decried, declared, determined to dismiss and divorce,

and decided how to dominate her body,

the Divine said her body was sacred, and her baby was godly.

An angel appeared and said, “Mary, this may sound odd;

this baby’s not a shame; he’s the Son of God.”

Instead of shame Mary was given both grace and glory.

          --And now for the rest of the story.

 

She was sent away to bear her shame in an undisclosed location.

Elizabeth, her hostess, look at her and said, without hesitation,

“My God, Mary.  You shine. You glow! Your face!

You know, Mary, Mother of God, you are full of grace!”

Then Mary, the one who was newly pronounced graceful

Cried out with joy from the depths of her soul,

“My God, I praise.

Yahweh has saved me from shame.

Yahweh saves! Yeshua. Yes, Jesus shall be his name.”

And then, Mary returned to Nazareth full of grace.

 

A few months later as she neared her term, her husband-to-be

came to take her to a census and fulfill another man’s decree.

Other men shaking their heads, in mock apology,

 They said they couldn’t find room in their inns

Wary

of this young, pregnant Mary,

unwed, full of sins.

Perhaps an innkeeper’s wife peering through the door

didn’t see a girl, full of shame, destitute, and poor,

But rather

she saw a young mother--

 full of glory and with near-term desperation.

Then the innkeeper’s wife snuck out the back door,

and whispered, “Psst. Hey hon.

We’ve got a barn;

it’s not very pretty,

but, dearie, you look tired and worn,

and, for one such as you, I’ve got some pity.”

She led them to a respite from the crowded, loud city,

to a barn, a stall, a warm and dry space,--

yet, a straw-lined shed is a shameful place

to give birth to King David’s Great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson.

Giving birth in a barn like a common cow?

Yet once again Mary’s shame, somehow

became a miraculous, angel-filled story of grace,

when short-shorn sheep

and shepherds who smelled like sheep

showed up to see the baby sleep.

And when they returned their flocks to their keep,

they danced and sang,

inviting, exciting,

rejoicing, reciting,

“God’s kingdom is come,

in great David’s Great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson.

She, who was once called shameful, is now proclaimed Mary, Full of Grace

And unexpectedly, a manger is the Messiah’s birth place.

 

And now because of the birth in that crèche,

Those who are called shameful or worthless

are now full of grace, full of worth, and blessed.

and the Divine promise--

hope for the hopeless

joy for the joyless

peace for the warriors, the wounded, and war-torn

love for the lost, the least, the last, the lonely and forlorn

the promise was fulfilled when God was born.

The angels sing “Glory, Glory, Glory be!”

Shame has shed its shackles, Glory be!

For now has come the time

          for God’s grace and light to shine.

For you and me,

for Mary,

and for all humanity.

 

May Christ be born again in all of your hearts this Christmas Day.

 

Amen.